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Jets’ road to .500 starts in Cleveland against winless Browns

It’s amazing what just one win can do for a team. The Jets finally snapped a four game losing streak with a victory over the Ravens this past Sunday, and the outlook on the season has regained some optimism.

There is a clear reason for that, as the road back to .500 is through the underwhelming trio of the Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, and Los Angeles Rams.

Climbing out of a 1-5 hole to a playoff berth is extremely difficult, but not entirely impossible. In fact, the Kansas City Chiefs pulled it off last season by winning their final 10 games. The biggest X-factor was that the Chiefs’ defense created turnovers in that final stretch run, which was a key problem for the Jets in their 1-5 start.

Against the Ravens, Todd Bowles’ unit intercepted Joe Flacco twice. They were more aggressive and helped a struggling offense win the field position battle to put up more points. They got back to their 3-4 roots which improved the pass rush, ultimately forcing early and errant throws. Buster Skrine sat on a route and changed the game with a huge return after his pick. Lorenzo Mauldin finally arrived to the 2016 season.

In this three game stretch it will only get easier for a defense hoping they have turned the corner rather than just catching lightning in a bottle for one game. Josh McCown (or potentially Kevin Hogan), Ryan Tannehill, and Case Keenum are not exactly terrifying passers. The former two have started every game for their teams in 2016, already combining for 17 interceptions.

Going back to Ryan Fitzpatrick does little for Chan Gailey’s struggling offense. Unfortunately Geno Smith is lost for the season and they will have to get the most out of the 33 year old journeyman.

Change has to take place though and that starts with the staff getting weapons not named Brandon Marshall involved. The opposition has caught on to Fitzpatrick constantly staring down the Jets’ number one target. He already has 63 targets this season, coming off of a year when he had an absurd 167 targets (PFF Premium).

Losing Eric Decker hurt, but plenty of young receivers have stepped up in his absence, specifically Quincy Enunwa. On nearly 20 less targets, the third year wide out of Nebraska has put up comparable numbers to Marshall. He’s a more dangerous threat after the catch as well, which he displayed wonderfully in weeks 2-5, forcing five missed tackles.

Fitzpatrick doesn’t have the arm to consistently incorporate rookie deep threat Robby Anderson and returning speedster Devin Smith. That is a very unfortunate problem the Jets will have to solve when they move on at the quarterback position in the near future.

The simple fact is, much like the 2015 Kansas City Chiefs, the Jets are going to have to win ugly going forward. The offense won’t be flashy, ultimately taking the ball out of the quarterback’s hands as much as possible. Matt Forte will continue to plod along, especially with Bilal Powell battling turf toe.

The defense will have to dig in and shut down the run, while still being aggressive against the pass. The task they have at hand due to some of the poorest quarterback play in the league won’t be easy, but they flashed their blueprint to ‘ugly success’ on Sunday.

The climb out of 1-5 is brutal and the Jets only have a one game start. A run in with the quarterback roulette Browns on Sunday is exactly what they needed. It’s the longest of long shots to the playoffs for the New York Jets, but it all starts with the road back to .500 in Cleveland on Sunday.

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